Around about 2011 I took a snapshot of the IMDB Top 250 and decided to make my way through it. On Friday I succeeded. I decided to complete the list as an easy way to pick films to see but also to force myself to watch films I wouldn’t normally watch. I was also interested to see which films I would enjoy. As a thriller and horror fan it was interesting for me to see how many horror films would make the list and how some films are regarded highly over others.
(The reason it took me so long is that I didn’t just exclusively watch these Top 250 films but other films between. Towards the end of the list I would put off watching things; like Das Boot (1981) as it’s a German War film totaling almost four hours long; which actually wasn’t all as bad as it sounds but you can understand why I was putting it off)
Some things I have learnt:
I DON’T LIKE WESTERNS.
I already knew I didn’t like westerns but after sitting through what are considered the best, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) sits at number four on this list, I know that I will never be a western fan. I can appreciate that they are good films but there’s something about all that gruffness, dust, dirt and gunslinging that I just can’t get excited about. It’s not the stories though, that are bad, Yojimbo (1961) and A Fistful of Dollars (1964) are the same story and I really enjoyed watching Yojimbo (1961). Possibly I prefer subtitles to bad dubbing?
I LIKE SAMARAI FILMS.
Believe me no one eise was more surprised than me! I had never seen a Samurai film until I started this list and I am now a big fan. There were Five Kurosawa films on the list (although not all were Samurai films.) I was pleasantly surprised with his whole approach to film making, he had a style completely of his own and something that has never been replicated since. Most significantly for me was his collaborative style with the amazing actor Toshirô Mifune was mesmerizing to watch.
NOT ALL SILENT MOVIES ARE CREATED EQUAL.
Buster Keaton in my opinion is far superior to Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin outweighs Keaton’s movies 5:2 on this list but in my opinion many of those Chaplin films are overrated. I think there is a lot of favourtism on this list and this works in Chaplin’s favour. He is one of the most famous faces of film and therefore I believe people rated him highly. I don’t doubt his talent; he wrote, directed and composed the music for many of his films, but I just don’t think they work as comedies any more, whereas Keaton’s work I believe has a humour that stands the test of time. I also think it goes without saying that Keaton’s stunts far outweighed Chaplin’s and found me on the edge of my seat even today, or should I say especially today, as many feats were actually performed, nowadays everything is done with computers and special effects.
I’M ACTUALLY QUITE FOND OF WAR FILMS.
I wouldn’t have said I hated war films before. I loved Platoon and Apocalypse Now, but I’d never really watched anything about any of the earlier wars before this list. And two of my newly discovered favorites happen to be war films. La Grande Illusion (1937) is a French film based on French officers during WWI. This film has everything, escape plans, friendship, debates on class and race and nationality, castles, a great villain (or is he the victim?) and an ending with which will make even the stiffest lip tremble. One of the most emotional films on this list (but more about this later) with one of the most complicated male relationships I’ve ever seen on film. I couldn’t recommend this enough; it’s everything The Great Escape (1963) wished it could be. The second hidden gem was The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Technically not a war film but about the aftermath of WWII, it concentrates on the lives of soldiers returning home. I say it’s a hidden gem but this film won a staggering nine Oscars, which is why it was so hard for me to believe that I’d never heard of it before. There are many films like this in the world that make me glad I decided to make my way through the list otherwise I may never have seen it. Out of the whole list these are the two I recommend most, as most of the other films are so obvious and many people have never heard of these.
I CRY, A LOT.
Before this list I can only ever remember crying during two films, The Fox and the Hound (1981) when I was very young and The Elephant Man (1980) in my early twenties. Now I’ve added a few more to the list. La Grande Illusion (1937) is one of them. Others include (though not exclusively) what may be considered one of the most depressing films of all time Grave of the Fireflies (1988), the story of children in war-torn Japan (need I say more), Life Is Beautiful (1997) about a father and son in a Nazi concentration camp, this one is known as a tragicomic tragedy which only hints at the emotional rollercoaster you are sent on, and Ikiru (1952), which I believe contains one of the world’s most emotionally manipulative scenes in cinema, he’s on a swing, he’s singing a song, he’s going to die, it’s snowing, I won’t go into details but I challenge anyone not to at least have a lump in their throat during that scene.
NEW FILMS WILL GO ON THERE BUT THEY GENERALLY WON’T BE FOR LONG.
As the IMDB list is based on user ratings this will always happen. With a new blockbuster comes hype and with hype comes enthusiastic ratings but everything evens out eventually, some stand the test of time; these are the future classics, while others drop off the list mostly to be replaced with others.
These are a few of the films on my list that dropped off within a couple of years:
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
District 9 (2009)
Let the Right One In (2008)
Currently standing the test of time:
The Dark Knight (2008)
Shutter Island (2010)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
I HAD TO WATCH A LOT OF FOREIGN FILMS.
I don’t know if it’s because it’s seen as highbrow, I don’t know if it’s pretentious or whether real film fans are not put off by them but there are a surprisingly high number of foreign films on the list.
We have to wait till film number 14 to get to a foreign film but out of the 250 there are around 47-50 non-English films on the list which in an age where it seems like a lot of people like to look down at their phones while ‘watching’ a film is surprising and welcoming to me. It means some people really are watching. When I watch a subtitled film I feel like I really have to make time for it, like it’s more of an event as I can’t be working in the background or drawing, I really have to pay attention. Some of my favourite foreign films (not including the ones mentioned earlier) are Amelie (2001), I think the storytelling mixed with rich visuals make this stunning, The Lives of Others (2006), (this is another tearjerker) it’s an exploration of loneliness, this comes across more to me than any of the themes of the secret police, betrayal and surveillance, and The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), a twisting, turning, beautifully paced and skillfully made piece of film, they have remade it in English but I can’t see how it can be as good as the original.
INGMAR BERGMAN IS OVERRATED
This list contains Four Bergman films and I begrudgingly sat through each of them. I had never seen a Berman film before this list and I started with the highest rated, The Seventh Seal (1957,) with some excitement. I had seen many references to it in popular culture; most famously Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), and I assumed the film would be a joy to watch. Unfortunately, I was bored, at an hour and thirty-seven minutes it’s an hour too long, I couldn’t wait for it to end. Does this make me an uneducated philistine? No, it makes me someone who watches a film to be educated and entertained. Some of the imagery is wonderful, if anything, Bergman does dream-like like no one else, but he’s no storyteller in my opinion, the dialog waffles and the plots are almost empty. I apologize if you are a fan but I believe there are four films more worthy of this list than his four, if it were my list I’d replace them with:
True Romance (1993)
Band of Outsiders (1964)
La Vie en Rose (2007)
The Haunting (1963)
WHERE ARE ALL THE DOCUMENTARIES?
Documentary films are not included on the Top 250 list. Rather unfairly I think. I adore documentaries and I would love to see the rules changed so documentaries could be added.
Some Documentaries I think should definitely make the list:
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991 Documentary)
Capturing the Friedmans (2003 Documentary)
Grey Gardens (1975 Documentary)
Burden of Dreams (1982 Documentary)
Bowling for Columbine (2002 Documentary)
Here is a list of documentaries I have seen and enjoyed, many of them would be too obscure to recieve a mention on the Top 250 list but still excellent films http://www.imdb.com/list/ls031294350/
WHAT TO WATCH NOW?
Sometimes wqtching great films and masterpieces are hard work and etotionally straining. So for now I;m watching a few horror films, currently I’m making my way through the Amicus films, there’s a few that I’ve never seen and after that… After that I might make my way through the 1001: Movies You Must See Before You Die http://www.amazon.co.uk/1001-Movies-You-Must-Before/dp/1844038793/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456685163&sr=8-1&keywords=1001+movies+you+must+see+before+you+die